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Policy Updates

A summary to date of the implications that the President's proposed budget for FY 2005 poses for the MSP program and for NSF's education division.

With the publication of the President's proposed budget for FY 2005, there has been a lot of discussion about the implications for the MSP program (and for NSF's education division.) Scientists, mathematicians, and educators have begun clarifying and publishing their decisions, and the legislative process has begun - a process that is likely to drag on for much of the next year. Many voices will weigh in, and many proposals and counter-proposals will be floated, debated, and discarded before a final plan and budget take shape. In this space, we will provide summaries and pointers to news items and bulletins about this important policy debate, with regular updates. If you find news stories, press releases, policy analyses, or position papers that you think will be of interest, please forward them to Brian Drayton, and thanks!

The President's delivery of the FY 2005 budget is just the opening move of a complex process, with many convolutions, dead-ends, and potential surprises ahead. At present, one thing is certain: NSF expects to make all out year commitments to current MSP awardees. Furthermore, it is our understanding that the current competition is funded from the FY 2004 appropriation to NSF.

The American Institute of Physics provides basic information about the budget proposal in its FYI Bulletin #17.

For a fuller treatment of the proposal, see the NSF's Legislative and Public Policy area, including their press release.

Current debates focus on some future developments in the program: where will it be housed, and what will be the focus of future awards? Both of these questions are the subject of debate currently in the Congress. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb. 12, 2004) reported that the proposal to move oversight of the MSP program to ED was the subject of sharp questioning in the House Science Committee from both Democrats and Republicans. CHE quotes Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY) as saying, "I'm baffled as well as disturbed by the proposal to move MSP to the Department of Education," Mr. Boehlert said. "At NSF, the program is a peer-reviewed competitive effort at an agency known for peer review. The administration is proposing legislation -- unlikely-to-pass legislation -- to force the Department of Education to peer-review the program."

Education Week (Feb, 11, 2004) reports that some in the science education community are concerned because they feel that the NSF's involvement is crucial to the mission of the MSPs in creating partnerships with higher education science and math faculty.

In this article, Terrance Millar, from the University of Wisconsin, points out that the NSF is well respected for its peer-review process: "How best to raise student achievement in math and science is a problem that does not have a clear solution," he said. "That is why you want to keep your premier research- funding agency in the mix."

The article also reports concerns from science educators over the proposed future focus on secondary mathematics projects. "Should President Bush's proposal, with its emphasis on math, be successful, science will be left out of the loop, according to Gerald Wheeler, the executive director of the science teachers' association, based in Arlington, Va."